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Jul 082014

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.





Havana d'Primera

Avett Brothers

Portrait by the candlelight

Neko Case

Neko Case

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

Forever, Folkfest

Fatoumata Diawara


Delhi to Dublin

Delhi to Dublin

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Vioux Farka Toure and Amos Garrett

Dec 232012

Going back in time with the Leica Digilux 2 by Dro Grigorian


Hey Steve, I appreciate all the work you have put into this site. I have found it to be one of the most inspirational photography websites out there. I recently took a trip to New York City. Being an Angelino, New York is quite different. No one drives and metro and subway systems dominate the city. I’m still trying to decide if I like New York or Los Angeles more….Anyway, I decided to take my Digilux 2 with me. I usually have my M8/M9 with my 50 cron, which I find to be my favorite combination till this day. The Digilux 2 is a very under-rated camera. Especially when it comes to B/W photography. It’s got great contrast and rich colors. The fixed Summicron on this camera is still one of my favorites. All these were taken as ISO 200.

I feel that this camera has very film-like characteristics. I recently showed the photos to a friend, and she asked what kind of film I shoot with. Interesting! Anyway, I will leave it up to you and readers of this site to decide whether this is the case. All of these are processed in NIK Silver Efex. No other post-processing was applied. I still haven’t decided if the film-like characteristics are due to the low ISO performance, where the grain looks quite exposed, or if it’s the contrast that the lens provides. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos and hope this reaches the daily inspiration. –Dro Grigorian







Oct 192012

Leica Digilux 2, did Fuji base the X100 on this?

By Gary Perlmutter

Normally I am an early adopter of new cameras, one of the first to get an X100 and the Nikon V1 for example. (See previous articles by myself on Steve’s Blog) However it took me 8 years to discover and purchase the Digilux 2! I can’t remember how I originally came across this camera, but once I had seen photos of how gorgeous it looked and read both Steve Huff’s report on his blog and the superb in-depth articles by Thorsten Overgaard, I knew I had to have one! Finally about a month ago one turned up on eBay and now I am the lucky owner of a mint Digilux 2.

So why am I so excited about this camera you ask? Well in looks it resembles one of the Leica rangefinder family, in fact an M9 owner the other day mistook it for an M9! It’s also very well-built. Now remembering that this camera and its sister the Panasonic DMC-LC1were manufactured from 2004 for just 2 years, before being replaced by the Digilux 3, it sports a host of amazing features for its time. For instance shutter speed dial, aperture selection on the lens, built-in EVF, full manual control. Sound familiar? Isn’t this exactly the same as the X100, which came out some 7 years later and has been heralded as a game changer! (Ok so no OVF). In addition a unique feature is it’s two-stage pop up flash. The 1st stage pops up at a 45 degree angle for bounce flash, how cool is that!

Ok, to use today it’s comparatively large 2/3 sensor (for a point and shoot) is only 5 megapixel, but the superb Leica 28-90 Vario Summicron f2 lens renders beautifully sharp and defined photos that frankly can put rival higher megapixel cameras to shame. Downsides compared to modern cameras are that, max ISO is only 400. It can only use standard SD cards and then only with a 2GB maximum capacity, but then with smaller file sizes then we are used to today, this isn’t really a problem. The EVF image is quite small and not the best resolution, but I find it perfectly usable. On the plus side the battery life is good for a day’s shooting and runs down gradually unlike the X100. Manual focus is very usable. Just switch to MF on the lens barrel and as you focus you automatically get a magnified image on the EVF or LCD depending, which you are using. Then with very little twisting of the lens barrel, (again unlike the X100) once in focus, a slight press on the shutter shows the full image ready to shoot. The menu system is also very simple, no manual needed here. I find out of the camera jpegs are really usable especially the black and whites. I have attached a few samples of images taken with the Leica. In my opinion it’s a shame that the X1 and X2 didn’t follow the already perfect design of the Digilux 2.

So if like me you lust after the red dot and can’t run to a digital M or even the M8, then take a look at one of these the next time one pops up on eBay or your local store. Trust me you wont be disappointed!

Related articles:

Digilux 2 Memory lane by Steve Huff

Thorsten Overgaard – Digilux 2 extensive review


Twitter: @gazonthestreet

Flickr: My Flickr photostream



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